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Landmarks, Ancient

Next only after the Book of Constitutions of the original Grand Lodge which was published in 1723, the Ahimin Rezon which was published by the Antient Grand Lodge in 1756, and Thomas Smith Webb's Illustrations, the article on Ancient Landmarks which Albert G. Mackey published in the 1877 edition of this Encyclopedia (see page 559 of this edition) has had more influence on American Freemasonry than any other single writing. The list of Landmarks in it has been officially endorsed by about one-half of the Grand Lodges; about one-half of these have officially adopt^ ed it as a part of the Written Law.

Nevertheless the list has been drastically criticized ever since it was published, by Grand Lodges as much as by individual writers, and some fifteen or twenty Grand Lodges have adopted lists of their own widely different from Mackey's. This criticism has been directed at two points: first, it has been denied that the Landmarks have been exactly twentyfive in number, and other writers have prepared lists ranging from one or two up to fifty or sixty; second, it has been contended that the Landmarks as given by Mackey are not from time immemorial. Bro. Theodore Sutton Parvin, with whom Mackey discussed his article before it was printed, made both these criticisms at the time, and proposed that the whole list be reduced to five or six. (This incidentally proves that before publication Mackey himself encountered the criticism his article would later meet).

Freemasonry is not a fluviatile, protean thing which can change itself as time goes on, and as the whim or desire of its members might elect, but has a fixed, inalterable identity of its own. That identity has in it a number of constituent elements, each of which is necessary to it, so that if any one of them is destroyed Freemasonry as a whole is destroyed with it. It would be possible to effect a number of changes in Craft usage which would leave Freemasonry itself in complete integrity, and such changes have been made often enough, as when the Two Degree system was changed to Three Degrees, or when the title of the Master was changed from Right Worshipful to Worshipful; but other changes are such that if only one of them were put into effect Freemasonry would be destroyed. This is the substance of the Doctrine of Landmarks.

Any constituent of the identity of Freemasonry, and without which that identity would cease, is a Landmark. To destroy such a constituent is an Innovation, and it is for this reason that if a Grand Lodge is guilty of an Innovation other Grand Lodges immediately withdraw recognition from it. It is plain, for example, that the requirement that a member must be an adult man is a Landmark, because the admittance of women and children would entail a complete destruction of age-old Masonry.

It is impossible to draw up a hard-and-fast list of Landmarks that will include nothing except Landmarks and exclude no Landmarks because the world in which Freemasonry works is a changing world, and what might violate a Landmark in one age would not in another. The great value of the Doctrine is in its recognition of the fact that Freemasonry has a fixed, inalterable identity of its own which cannot be changed by its own members according to taste or fashion or prejudice; and because it is a standard or criterion by which any proposed change can be tested. Would this proposed change alter Freemasonry? make of it something else? if so it is an Innovation; if not, the proposed change can be considered on its own merits.

Chetwode Crawley gave it as his opinion that there are three Landmarks: Fatherhood of God; Brotherhood of Man; the Life to Come.

William J. Hughan gave a legalistic definition: "A landmark must be a regulation or custom, which cannot be abrogated without placing offenders outside the pale of the Craft; and all Landmarks should practically ante-date the Grand Lodge era. " He mentions belief in God, secrecy, and male membership as being among such rules. (It is difficult to guess what Hughan here means by "practically. ")

Mackenzie defined Landmarks as " the leading principles from which there can be no deviation." His definition had British Freemasonry in mind where there are only three Grand Lodges for a very large population; it would have even more usefulness in the United States where there are forty-nine Grand Jurisdictions; so many independent sovereign Bodies need Landmarks as a common body of praetices and principles in order to serve as a platform for united action, and as a means for maintaining comity; this fact is an answer to the question raised by Sir Alfred Robbins as to why the question of Landmarks is so much more discussed and debated in America than it is in England. The Rev. George Oliver adopted so loose a defi nition that it ran away with him, proliferating into hundreds of Landmarks which he divided into twelve classes--too long a list is as unworkable as one which is too short.

The phrase "landmarks of our Order" is firs' found in George Payne's Regulations of 1721, which were incorporated in the Book of Constitutions published in 1723. In Lodge Minutes of the period that Book itself was sometimes referred to as "our Landmarks" in other Minutes the Book and the Ritual were occasionally referred to as "our two Landmarks. "

In his Masonic Encydopedia Woodford set dowr a list of eighteen. J. W. Horsley was of the opinion that Landmarks are of different degrees of "indispensability "; he named five as indispensable : 1 ) Belief in a Personal God. 2) Belief in a Future Life. 3) The volume of the Sacred Law. 4) Secrecy. 5) The Mode of Recognition.

In a second and less indispensable class he names: 1 ) Division into Three Degrees 2) Legend of the Third Degree. (It is an odd fact that makers of lists of Landmarks almost invariably forget the High Grades; according to Horsley the Scottish Rite, etc., would be a violation of his Landmark "Division into Three Degrees.")

A. J. A. Poignant was a skeptic who did not believe that any list is possible: "What is meant by the Landmarks of the Order? . . . Has anybody within living memory received a conclusive or satisfactory answer to this question?" He confuses the reality of Landmarks with attempts to make lists of them. Has any mathematician " within living memory " ever made an exhaustive list of the propositions and theorems belonging to Euclid's geometry? or even the axioms? yet engineers make practical use of geometry every day.

Justinian defined an unwritten law as " what usage has approved"; E. L. Hawkins, recalling this, wrote: "Now the Old Landmarks of the Craft are its unwritten laws, either sanctioned by unwritten custom, or, if enacted, enacted at a period so remote that no trace of their enactment can be found. "

He held that we have these in the Old Charges. (It is worth noting that in England Lodge feasts would satisfy Hawkins' definition, whereas in American Freemasonry Lodge feasts have not been a custom for a century and a half.)

As quoted above George Oliver wrote in one book that there are twelve classes of Landmarks; but w hen writing elsewhere (in 1863) he became skeptical: " we have no actual criterion by which we may determine what is a Landmark, and what is not"--though what he meant by "actual criterion" he leaves his reader to guess. Theodore Sutton Parvin also changed his mind; at one time he said there are three Landmarks; at another he wrote that there are no Landmarks (a most extraordinary statement!) because "no two men agree as to what they are." (His attention should have been called to the fact that some twentyfive American Grand Lodges agree.) Judge Josiah Drummond wrote: "If 'Landmarks' are anything else than laws of the Craft, either originally expressly adopted or growing out of immemorial usage, the term is a misnomer . . . A Landmark is something set, and 'ancient Landmark' is one which has remained a long time. On the other hand 'fundamental principles' are like truth, from everlasting to everlasting. "

In 1871 Findel fixed on nine Landmarks. The Grand Lodge of New Jersey fixed on 10 in 1903. John W. Simon chose 15. Rob Morris made a list of 17. The Grand Lodge of New York once selected 31. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky adopted 54. J. F. Newton approved Findel's list: 1) Universality. 2) Masonic organized fellowship. 3) The Qualifications. 4) Secrecy. In 1856 the Grand Lodge of Minnesota adopted a list of 26 "articles which had the force of Landmarks". (For a good bibliography on Landmarks see The Builder: Vol. I; page 183.)

Hextall argued that the "Ancient Landmarks" in the Book of Constitutions referred to Operative building secrets in general, and to geometry in particular. Canon Horsley wrote: "For myself I think that the test must have been, and should be now, what are the tenets or matters the breach or repudiation of which would entail, at any rate merit, expulsion from the order." (Horsley forgot that a Lodge or Grand Lodge can be expelled from the Order, and oftentimes for Innovation, which is a violation of Landmarks; the result is that his "test" is circular.)

When Bro. C. F. Catlin circularized American Grand Lodges in 1907 he found that 21 Grand Lodges had never adopted legislation on the subject of Landmarks--they took them to be unwritten laws; nine Grand Lodges had officially adopted the " Ancient Charges. " Among those which had adopted legislation the number of Landmarks chosen ranged in number from 10 to 75, and embodied more than 100 "separate and distinct subjects."

In the Iowa Grand Lodge Proceedings (1888; p. 157) Albert Pike undertook to demolish Mackey's list of 25 Landmarks one by one; "Perhaps no more can be said with certainty in regard to them than that they were those essential principles on which the old simple Freemasonry was built, and without which it could not have been Freemasonry; the organization of the Craft into Lodges, the requisites for admission into the fellowship, and the methods of government established at the beginning . . . There is no common agreement in regard to what are and what are not Landmarks." Lionel Vibert undertook to employ Mill's principle of logical exclusion to the problem; in his Freemasonry Before the Existence of Grand Lodges he attempted "to classify all the peculiar features of the Craft which serve to distinguish it from all other religions, societies, gilds, brotherhoods or what you will. "

NOTE: In a book on the words used as titles by the nobility, aristocracy, chivalric orders, etc., of Great Britain, R. T. Hampton , traces the word "landmark" back to a point in Anglo Saxon where that language lies closest to its origins in Sanskrit. In those early times a people, clan, or tribe in the upper half of the European lands dwelt in an opening in the ever-stretching forests, on a plain in a valley, or even in a dell; such an area they called a ' land." Around this land were sharply defined boundaries, in the earliest times guards or sentries marched up and down the boundary line as much to prevent trespassing as to be on guard against attack.

Because of this march [maroo] the boundary came to be called " the land marao," or " landmark "-- oftentimes the whole strip or region inside a border was called " the march "; Englishmen still call the border between themselves and Wales " the Welsh marches," and in the north the phrase " the marches of Scotland " antedated "borders of Scotland." In the course of time the marching guards or sentinels were replaced by banners, which hung on standards permanently fixed in the ground; a banner represented a people's or tribe's identity --if a man was said to belong to "Olaf's Banner" it meant that he belonged to the tribe or people of which Olaf was King.

When it became necessary to describe the location of a boundary in order to make treaties and agreements with neighboring peoples, the line was said to run through a succession of permanent features, a large rock, the crest of a hill, up the bed of a stream, past a certain tree, etc., these were " land markers." The boundary, the marching sentinels, and the permanent features which located the boundary, these three meanings coalesced and they have belonged to the meaning of the word ever since.

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